Do the maths: good times ahead for some graduates

Businesses expect shortages of STEM skills as economic growth returns. Hannah Fearn writes

May 17, 2010

Demand from businesses for university graduates is set to increase as the country moves out of recession, the CBI has said.

In a major survey of employers, the organisation found that businesses fear they will not be able to find enough skilled staff to fill new “high-level jobs” in the coming years.

Yet the survey also showed that links between business and universities were strong.

The study, Ready to Grow: Business Priorities for Education and Skills, surveyed 694 employers and found that more than half (51 per cent) were concerned they would soon be unable to fill their graduate posts.

Key to the findings, which are counterintuitive given the current high levels of graduate unemployment, are the subjects in which many students are graduating.

Almost half of businesses (45 per cent) said they were already struggling to recruit graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, and 59 per cent said this would become more of a problem as growth returns.

Respondents also described how businesses work with universities.

The majority (66 per cent) had links with universities, 40 per cent partner with them for research and 34 per cent provide resources to universities.

However, only per cent use universities as external training providers even though 82 per cent have been turning to private providers.

In the past year, a fifth of employers said they had been forced to organise remedial training for new recruits in areas such as literacy, numeracy and IT skills.

Nigel Snook, chief executive of awarding body EDI, which sponsored the study, said: “The transition from school, college or university to the world of work is still one of the most challenging stages in many people’s lives. Despite the fact that employers and government invest considerable sums of money and effort into this area, the survey demonstrates that there is still work to do.”

Employers said that the development of links with higher education was stifled by not knowing who to contact at a university and by the red tape involved in accessing funding for staff training.

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